By Sacha Ismail
The Socialist Party has now published a third article attacking the AWL over Libya. The first two were by SP general secretary Peter Taaffe (see here) - the second not just about Libya but a lengthy diatribe against various aspects of our tendency's history and politics. The third is by Robert Bechert on the website of the CWI, the international tendency of which the SP is part (see here - note, by the way, that the SP attacks on us never link to our articles or even quote them at length).
"The idea that there was ‘no alternative’ to NATO was already disproved in the magnificent Egyptian movement that led to Mubarak’s ousting. The imperialist powers intervened for their own reasons not in the interests of the Libyan working masses and youth. Any failure to explain this as, for example, the small British AWL grouping did when it initially uncritically supported NATO’s role in the fighting in Tripoli, politically disarms the workers’ movement, leaving it unable to warn of imperialism’s intentions. The AWL has consistently supported NATO’s bombing and it now seeks to justify this by claiming the organisation of workers will be “easier” now after Gaddafi’s overthrow, something which it is not at all certain to be the case (see also: The ‘no-fly zone’, the Left and the ‘Third Camp’). In reality this is a rationalisation of their view, shameful for a self-proclaimed left organisation, that the military assault by the imperialist NATO alliance had to be supported as Libyan workers and youth had no chance on their own of defending themselves or defeating Gaddafi."
Here the SP goes beyond its existing boneheaded refusal to understand the distinction between "support" and "not oppose" (so if the police stand between us and a much larger group of fascists, we must either shout "Police out!" or endorse the police's actions?) and descends into straightforward lying. This is not a term we use lightly; it is generally not a helpful way of describing things in political debates. But it is the only appropriate word for Bechert's laughable claims.
Lie 1: we failed to explain why NATO was intervening. Right from the start, the AWL has stated clearly that the NATO powers were - of course - intervening for their own reasons and not because they care about democracy, let alone "the interests of the Libyan working masses". (Don't take this on trust: see our very first leaflet on the intervention here!) This is fully in line with the position we have taken in similar situations, eg the 1999 NATO intervention in Kosova.
Lie 2: we supported NATO uncritically. In fact, as the SP knows very well, we did not support NATO at all. Here, however, they descend a level by, bizarrely, claiming uncritical support! The word "initially" is clearly intended to cover them against accusations of lying; but it is nonsense. At no point did we give any support to NATO, let alone uncritically! You can only deny this if you defy refusing to denounce an action as a kind of support; in which case, the claim of us being "uncritical" is rather odd.
As for the idea that the Egyptian revolution showed there was a viable alternative to NATO intervention, this takes the SP's fantasy politics to a new level. It is like saying that if you are about to be murdered by gangsters, the fact that there is a powerful strike in the town down the road shows there is no need to worry about the police! In Egypt there is a history of workers' struggles going back most of a century, and for forty years working-class struggles have carved out space, limited but important, for the beginnings of independent workers' organisations even under Mubarak. In the revolution these organisations have flowered. In Libya there is no labour movement at all, and never has been; under Qaddafi's totalitarian state, the most basic civil society organisations were bloodily prevented from emerging. As of yet, the Libyan workers are not even minimally organised as a class.
In the really existing situation, and in the time frame available, nothing was going to stop the crushing of the rebels except outside intervention. We do not like that fact, but we look reality squarely in the face - something the SP leadership is clearly incapable of doing.
Similarly - dismissing the notion that it will almost certainly be easier for workers to organise and struggle under the new regime than under Qaddafi is so ludicrous as to hardly require comment.
In Bechert's article and probably in his head, the distinction between lying and failing to understand basic facts blurs until you cannot distinguish one from the other. This is typical of the SP.
In any case, we want to know: why has the SP now published three articles attacking us, but still refuses to take part in any sort of public debate? Why were we told by one of their their organisers that a debate was on, only to be told by an irate Peter Taaffe that it wasn't? Why have we not even received an email replying to our invitation?
A number of SPers have told us that the SP won't debate with us because of the sharpness of our attacks. No doubt calling the SP leaders liars will not endear us to them any further. We would only point out the preciousness of this. The SP leaders have accused us of being apologists for imperialism! (Not to mention irrelevant, a sect, middle-class and so on) In general those being criticised never like the criticism, and the political tasks facing us are too urgent to get offended.
We reiterate our invitation to the SP to debate Libya with us at a public meeting.